The world is awash with books and articles by people out who are depressed and yet who have done so much. I wonder if they are so depressed, how can they do so much? Yet they hold down careers, raise children, write books and talk on radio and TV about their experience of depression, and maintain an amazing social media profile.
You might think I get by OK, being a professor of psychology and having written a few books, so I assume most of these people do the same as me: periods of miserable inactivity punctuated by spells of being able to get something done. And of course there is always the possibility that these people are now no longer ill.
When I look back over my life I’m amazed I’ve ever achieved anything. I have always felt a fraud, fearing that I’m soon likely to be caught out. Reading about academic impostor syndrome over Christmas I realised I am not alone: many academics seem to feel that they’ve cheated their way to the top (or at least somewhere near the top). I can never decide if I have overachieved or underachieved: I think on balance I have failed to deliver my schoolboy potential. I was at my best when I was 17, when I was anxious and obsessional but not too depressed. I wonder what things would have been like if I had had a full life, rather than half or even a quarter of a life, the rest stolen by depression. I envy people who can get up every morning knowing they have a clear mind and will be able to work for as long as they like. If you’re one of these fortunate people, cherish it: you don’t know how lucky you are.
It’s been some time since I’ve written, and it hasn’t been because I’ve been very depressed. First writing about psychology and the weather, and then about the science of consciousness, has taken priority, with other book projects have been piling up behind it. Being owned by Beau, a poodle, has taken up a lot of slack in my life. Perhaps more on how being with a dog changes your life later. So perhaps I have answered my own question: most of us scrape by.
Depressed people who get anything done deserved to be lauded. But I think if you’re ill and don’t feel successful, the last thing you should do is feel worried about it. You have enough problems already. Hopefully one day you will feel better enough to find some peace.